January 7, 2022
“In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, 'Repent, because the kingdom of Heaven has come near!'”
“In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, 'Repent, because the kingdom of Heaven has come near!' For he is the one spoken through the prophet Isaiah, who said: “A voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make His paths straight!’” Matthew 3:1-3
When John came preaching in the desert, there were perilous times for Israel. Both the Romans and Israel’s religious leaders were oppressing the people. In terms of a pendulum, Roman culture swung way over to the left. It was Worldly, liberal, and cutthroat. On the other hand, Jewish religious culture had swung too far to the right. Void of grace, it was fanatically religious. Things had not changed much since the days of Isaiah, so a prophet in the “spirit of Isaiah” was needed to preach repentance.
Sadly, not many people heeded Isaiah’s warnings, so in the days of Jeremiah, God sent Babylon to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, in 70 AD, around the end of the apostolic era, the Romans also destroyed the Temple.
Still, the preacher must preach because he is called by the Lord to deliver the gospel. Our job is to be faithful to God’s Word, and God’s job is to produce results. Many people repented and turned back to the Lord in the days of John the Baptist. And while that desire to follow the Lord, in and of itself, did not lead to salvation, it made many people able to see Messiah once He was finally standing in front of them!
John was letting everyone know there was another way. It was not the broad ways of liberalism or religious legalism. It was the narrow path, the true way.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6
The cry of John the Baptist was for the people to turn to the Lord. The “baptism” of John was a baptism of repentance, and it signified a person’s desire to be “immersed” in (re-committed-to) the Lord, but how could they seek Him if the national religion had become so corrupt? By seeking God’s Word, perhaps they could distance themselves from the legalistic misinterpretations of both the Pharisees and Sadducees and the Romans’ worldly idolatry & practices. When we seek His Word, He reveals Himself to us.
By repenting and receiving the baptism of John, the people of Israel would not eliminate their need for Messiah. But repentance (turning toward the Lord) would facilitate Jesus’ mission to atone for sin on the cross. Imagine a nation of people who understood Who Messiah would be (God made flesh) when He should come to earth and what His mission was (atone for sin through suffering).
Similar to the days of John the Baptist, the first act of following Jesus today is repenting. We are not saved by repentance but by the desire to turn from our sin is still the act that precedes receiving the Grace of Jesus, by Grace, through Faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
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